Page 4, 12th August 1977

12th August 1977
Page 4
Page 4, 12th August 1977 — Teacher redeployment and discrimination

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Locations: Halifax, London


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Teacher redeployment and discrimination

am grateful for the prompt response (August 5) that has come from the secretary of the Catholic Teachers' Federation in connection with my letter of July 29 about the redeployment of a teacher friend of mine, and thank him for the information, which increases the likelihood that this matter will not be quietly dropped.

As Mr Peter Carney says, my original letter intended simply to gain publicity. contained little relevant information, and was emotive. The relevant information would have resulted in a very long letter even then, but I am still gathering more relevant and disquieting information, and sharing it with those involved in the matter, My letter was certainly emotive, though 1 feel Mr Carney is implying somehow that emotional expression is really not acceptable.

My letter expresses my affection for my friend, anger with the indivuduals who have direct responsibility for treating him shamefully, and sorrow over the fact that apparently within the educational organisation of the Church it is very difficult for an indivudual to obtain redress of grievance.

My friend, his name is Jacob, came to the Catholic primary

school in 1969 when 1 was the staff, and he has remained while I have moved on. I have assisted him over the years in matters of subtle and not so subtle discrimination to which he has been subjected by agencies of local and national government.

The most serious issue — until now, that is — was concerned with housing, and's4as resolved only after Press publicity. Definite what the

law may say about such matters, and even after living successfully with his family for many years in our culture, he is from time to time treated as "a stangcr in a strange land", to put it euphemistically. This time, so I believe, the Church is involved, so 1 find myself in the difficult position of asking very awkward questions of fellowCatholics.

My friend does not feel that he can personally resolve the situation, and appealed for my help only after he had not been able to get those responsible to listen to his own nonemotional appeal, and after he had been pressured into accepting a transfer.

His transfer has been conducted with indecent haste, without consultation, and against the wishes of parents of children at the school.

My interest in this matter is not merely based upon friendship. In 1973 I suffered some financial loss because of an unresolved dispute with a particularly autocratic chairman ca governors. In 1976 a teacher in a Catholic school, also in Halifax, was compelled to resign. He was not able to obtain redress of grievance, and still remains unemployed.

My friend's case also looked like developing into one that was not going to be settled amicably "within the family" so to speak. In my experience local education authorities, unions and even diocesan schools commissions are reticent about becoming involved in disputes in Catholic schools, and my prime concern in this is to persuade those responsible for Catholic education to remedy this situation. Mr Carney can now see why my letter was as it was, and that it is really only a part of a larger problem which is beyond my experience and skill to resolve. I intend writing to the Catholic Education Council for advice, but really hoping that they will assume major responsibility, and 1 am sure that the Catholic Teachers' Federation, through Mr Carney, will be able to advise and assist in the matter.

Having dealt with the "official" part of the matter, I now have to come to the "awkward" part, which also merges into that area covered by the letter of Y.H.R. Seferta printed alongside Mr Carney's.

As parent and teacher, Mr Carney asks: "What is a Muslim teacher doing in a Catholic school in the first place?" My problem is that I do not know which is the real Mr Carney — the one who asks the question above or the one who agrees with Item 5 in his letter which states that "non-Catholic teachers in Catholic schools should have equal rights with their Catholic colleagues."

Mr Carney's own question may simply be tongue-in-cheek, designed to find out what I am really like by asking a controversial question — a technique I use myself sometimes. On the other hand it may be a serious question.

To answer the question seriously would make this letter very long and it would contain facts even more disquieting than the ones I have given so far. I will wait for Mr Carney to indicate whether or not he wants a serious answer.

A. E. Harris Bradford.

Following recent correspondence in your columns concerning redeployment of teachers, and in particular the Muslim teacher moved from his Catholic school in Bradford, I should like to add some points which we in the Catholic Commission for Racial Justice feel to be crucial to the situation.

First, the most important thing about a Catholic school is surely the Christian values to which it bears witness, and which it tries to impart to its pupils. Its mission is seen through what it represents as much as through what is taught in the RE class.

Following directly from this "witness by example'', the school's task is to prepare its pupils to live as Christians in a pluralist society, where belief in God and spiritual values are at a premium.

These principles dictate that the Catholic school must be seen to be serving the community. This may mean that it becomes less selective academically or financially, or that it takes in more children of different denomination or colour, or that it welcomes children of families in need of moral support.

Community or neighbourhood schools are sometimes appropriate expressions of this desire to serve. Comprehensive schools are another.

But one need not be cynical to realise that "throwing the doors open" in this manner does not automatically create a model of a Christian ,community. All good institutions need committed and enthusiastic, even inspired teamwork, if they arc to operate well. The school which can muster such "back-up" is extremely fortunate. We may cite examples. There are the managers who were confident enough to accept Moroccan children into their North London Catholic primary school. There is the secondary school in a London multi-racial area which could obtain only a tiny percentage of the highest ability children to which it was entitled, yet could gain six university places.

To us, these seem to be schools which are serving their com• munities. Needless to say, all who work in these two schools are wholly committed to their aims.

Gathering together dedicated staff and managers is a job requiring insight and patience. Nominal Catholics without a commitment to ,the special aims of a Catholic school are obviously not a necessity. Surely teachers with a belief in God and a desire to serve the community through the Catholic school could be just as much an asset as any of these.

From the case outlined by Mr Harris in his letter of July 29 it seems indeed as if the school has done itself damage in dismissing his Muslim friend so summarily. It has lost both his teaching services and its own witness to links with the local Muslim community. It has lost his teacher's good faith in what they are trying to achieve in their school.

For our part in the commission, we should like to see more committed Muslim teachers in our schools, and fewer uncommitted Catholics.

Barbara Kentish (pp Cris St Hill) Chairman, Catholic Commission for Racial Justice. London, NW l

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